When it comes to your saltwater aquarium, the last thing you want to worry about is a bad filter.
Adequate filtration is one of the most important aspects of saltwater aquarium keeping because it helps with waste and toxin removal while improving oxygenation and producing a current in the water.
We’ve found the 10 best saltwater aquarium filters for you and weighed their pros and cons to help you find the best filter for your saltwater aquarium. These reviews are intended to be a guide to help you find a solid starting point in finding the filter that will work best for your needs.
A Quick Look at Our Favorite Picks in 2022
The 10 Best Saltwater Aquarium Filters
1. Penn Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter – Best Overall
Based on its efficiency and size choices, we think the Penn Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter is the best overall saltwater aquarium filter. This canister filter is available in 30-gallon, 65-gallon, 150-gallon, and 200-gallon sizes, all for a fair price. It also offers chemical, mechanical, and biological filtration.
The setup comes with large filter trays, filter media to get you started, and input and output tubing. Large filter trays mean more filter media, getting the most out of your filtration system. The filter is primed via an easy-to-use push button, and has valve taps that can rotate 360˚, flow-rate control valves, and hose clamps. It also has a tip-proof rubber base and runs quietly. Assembly is quick and easy to customize.
Once installed, you should see noticeable improvement in your water clarity within 24 hours.
The rubber feet on the base are removable, so you’ll have to ensure they don’t get lost during setup. Also, this filter does require impeller replacements from time to time.
2. Marineland Bio-Wheel Penguin Aquarium Power Filter – Best Value
The best saltwater aquarium filter for the money is the Marineland Bio-Wheel Penguin Aquarium Power Filter. This filter offers great functionality at a low price. It’s available in 20-gallon, 30-gallon, 50-gallon, and 70-gallon sizes, making this a good pick for small and medium tanks with chemical, mechanical, and biological filtration.
This HOB filter is easy to set up and requires little more than dropping in the filter cartridge and turning it on. Chemical and mechanical filtration is provided by the filter cartridges, which live under the two-piece vented cover that allows for easy access to the cartridge and quiet filtration.
Biological filtration happens via Marineland’s revolutionary BIO-Wheel that’s proven effective at removing ammonia and nitrite. The intake tube is adjustable for tanks of multiple heights.
The filter cartridges need to be replaced monthly at the most. While the internal parts of this filter operate quietly, the BIO-Wheel may make some noise as it rotates.
3. Fluval FX High Performance Canister Filter – Premium Choice
The Fluval FX High Performance Canister Filter is the premium choice for filters for your saltwater aquarium. This canister filter is high quality but also high cost. It’s available in 250-gallon and 400-gallon options. It offers chemical, mechanical, and biological filtration.
This canister filter includes filter trays, filter media, hoses, hose clamps, and an adjustable intake to allow for tanks of multiple sizes. It features Smart Pump Technology, which means that a special circuit board monitors the function of the pump and adjusts as needed for maximum efficiency. It’s easy to set up and is self-priming, so all you have to do is add water and plug it in.
The energy-efficient unit runs smoothly and quietly, thanks in part to rubber feet that reduce noise from vibration, click-fit valves that are easy to install, and an access valve for water changes. The pump is compact, allowing it to fit in cabinets and under tanks.
Due to its size, this filter may require more frequent cleaning than some other canister filters. While it includes the hoses, they may be too short to allow for the filter to sit below a tank, so they may need to be replaced.
4. Marineland Magniflow 360 Canister Filter
The Marineland Magniflow 360 Canister Filter is made to filter tanks up to 100 gallons. It has chemical, mechanical, and biological filtration, as well as water polishing.
It includes everything you need to get started including filter media, hoses, and valves. It has a quick release that shuts down water flow to allow for spill-free water changes. Set-up is easy and has a self-priming feature that only requires you to press a button. It’s compatible with Marineland’s Rite-Size filter cartridges, but also can fit many different types and brands of filter media.
This filter’s impeller does require replacement on rare occasions, but when it needs to be replaced it becomes loud and rattles. This filter also has limited size options available, making it a poor option for small tanks.
5. Fluval Aquarium Power Filter
The Fluval Aquarium Power Filter is a HOB filter that offers 5-stage filtration. This means it has two mechanical, one chemical, and two biological filtration chambers. It’s available in 30-gallon, 50-gallon, and 70-gallon size options.
This filter features clear plastic that creates a modern look and makes it easy to see when it’s time to clean the filter. It includes all filter media needed to get started and is easy to set up. There is a water output control system, allowing you to be in control of the current created by the filter in your tank.
Since this is a HOB filter, it will require cleaning every couple of weeks. Some of the filter media is reusable for a long time, but some will require replacement with cleaning to maintain efficacy. This filter will become clogged quickly in overstocked tanks or tanks with messy inhabitants.
6. Aqueon QuietFlow Aquarium Power Filter
The Aqueon QuietFlow Aquarium Power Filter is a HOB filter that is available in multiple sizes and works well, especially in small to medium tanks. It’s available in 20-gallon, 30-gallon, 45-gallon, 50-gallon, and 90-gallon options. This filter has 5-stage filtration and improves available oxygen in the water.
This filter has a patented Bio-Holster design that reduces or eliminates splashing on return. It also makes this filter operate very quietly. It features a LED indicator light that flashes when the filter is clogged, allowing for you to be reminded when it’s time to change your filter cartridge. It’s self-priming and will automatically restart itself after power outages and being unplugged, preventing leaks and motor burnout. This filter also has a bio pad that water flows across on return to the tank, giving it one last boost of biological filtration.
The high flow rate oxygenates the water well but doesn’t allow you to control the output, so this may not be a great option for tanks with sensitive corals and plants. The intake motor on this filter sits below the waterline, so large fish may knock it loose.
7. Penn-Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter
The Penn-Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter is a sleek HOB filter system. This filter is available in 7-gallon, 10-gallon, 20-gallon, 35-gallon, 50-gallon, and 100-gallon options, making this a great option for small tanks and some medium tanks. It offers 4-stage filtration with chemical and mechanical filtration and two stages of biological filtration.
This HOB filter comes with the filter media needed to get it started. It has a Bio-Falls Quad-Filtration system that provides efficient oxygenation and filtration while colonizing beneficial bacteria. There is an adjustable flow knob so you can reduce the filtration and current strength as needed. It’s self-priming and has an adjustable intake. It’s made of clear blue plastic, giving it a modern look, and making it easy to see when it’s time to clean it.
The filter cartridges in this filter will need regular replacement every few weeks. This filter needs to be kept well-maintained to prevent issues with it becoming noisy. The adjustable intake may be too short for some tanks.
8. AquaClear Power Filter
The AquaClear Power Filter is a HOB filter that is available in 20-gallon, 30-gallon, 50-gallon, 70-gallon, and 110-gallon sizes. It provides mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration.
This HOB filter is easy to set up and includes all the filter media needed to get it started. It’s energy efficient and provides the water with a long contact time with the filter media for maximum filtration. It’s translucent grey, making it easy to tell when it’s time to clean the inside. The power cord with this filter is 6 feet long, so this is a good pick even if your filter will be a few feet from an outlet.
The basket in this filter that holds the filter media tends to float up and push the lid open if the filter media becomes clogged. The manufacturer recommends cleaning the filter every two weeks, including replacing filter cartridges to maintain efficiency.
9. Marina Aquarium Power Filter
The Marina Aquarium Power Filter is a HOB filter that’s available in 3 sizes. It can be purchased for 10-gallon, 15-gallon and 20-gallon tanks, making this a good option for small tanks. It offers mechanical and biological filtration.
This filter features a slim, translucent design with quick startup. It’s self-priming and includes two filter cartridges to get you started. This filter has an outlet flow control and comes with a strainer sponge to cover the intake to keep fry, small fish, and invertebrates safe. The intake motor is submerged to keep the motor quiet.
It’s recommended to size up with this filter as it does not filter the tank size listed on the box as well as it should. While the motor runs quietly, the filter itself tends to vibrate against the glass, making this a noisy filter. If not maintained well, this filter will often begin to clog and leak.
10. Fluval Aquarium Underwater Filter
The Fluval Aquarium Underwater Filter is an internal tank filter. It’s available in 15-gallon, 30-gallon, 40-gallon, and 65-gallon options. It provides mechanical and biological filtration.
This filter includes a fine foam pad for small debris and a bio-foam sponge for larger debris. It has an attachable spray bar to provide an even water flow, allowing you to keep sensitive plants, corals, and small animals safe. It also includes top output that improves water circulation and oxygenation and a bottom output that improves circulation and low in the tank. The lid flips open for easy filter cartridge access.
Since this is an internal filter, it does not provide adequate filtration on its own for overstocked or high bio load tanks. It clogs quickly and easily. It’s difficult to provide maintenance to this filter due to its small size and filter cartridges require frequent replacement.
Buyer’s Guide – Choosing the Best Saltwater Aquarium Filters
The best overall filter for saltwater aquariums is the Penn Plax Cascade Aquarium Filter for its functionality, quality, and efficiency. For a high value product, the Marineland Bio-Wheel Penguin Aquarium Power Filter is a great option that’s built to last at a good price. If your budget allows for a premium product, then the Fluval FX High Performance Canister Filter is a great pick and should last for years to come.
Choosing the right filter may seem overwhelming, especially since there are hundreds of filters available. These reviews of the 10 best saltwater aquarium filters should help narrow the field for you and allow for a starting point for you to identify what you want, what your tank needs, and what will fit into your budget. Choosing a filter for your tank doesn’t have to be difficult, but it is an important decision for the health and well-being of your tank.
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